The Complete Guide to Tile

Rachel Strong

Rachel Strong

September 13, 2019

Tile is a durable, versatile and beautiful option to use as a finishing material in many places during your home remodel. Tile comes in many shapes, sizes, colors, glazes, weights, and thicknesses so it is important to know which is best for which application and where in your home. If you are working with a skilled interior designer, they can help guide and assist you with some of these questions and obstacles during the material selection process. For now, here is a quick guide to help you understand some of the various aspects of tile and how you can use it in your next renovation project.


Ceramic - This tile will be your most commonly found option. It is generally the most affordable of the options listed and also comes in the most diverse colors and styles out of the listed options. Ceramic tile is incredibly versatile. It is lighter in weight than porcelain, easier to cut and can be found in a variety of sizes. In a home remodel, this material is a great place to start looking, depending of course, on where the tile is being installed.

Porcelain - Although when you hear this word you might think of your grandma's dolls or tea sets, porcelain tile is very durable and suggested for outdoor, high traffic and even commercial use. There are many times where porcelain would be a great option for a residential remodel as well, like a heavily trafficked kitchen.

Glass - Glass is typically only used for a decorative touch like a backsplash, niche, or inlay. Glass tile can be affordable and fairly durable depending on the application. Sometimes glass is mixed with other materials like metal or natural stone in mosaics to give the pattern some dimension and shine!

Travertine/Natural Stone - This type of tile can be used in a variety of places but I have most often seen it used for fireplace walls, backsplashes and sometimes flooring too. Natural stone is best used in an outdoor application but can go great in a cabin style home and sometimes in a modern style as well.

Other Less Commonly Used Materials:

Slate, Terrazzo, Aluminum/Metal, Granite, Limestone, & Marble
These materials are all great and can be found in a wide range of tiles. Some of them are more costly which is why they are not used as often, some ore just more rare or have limited color ranges and therefore uses. All of these are great to use in your home if you find the right one for you!


Mosaic Tile Sheets - These come in such a broad range of options. Mosaic tiles are the decorative, intricate, small piece, patterned tiles you have seen. They typically come on a 12x12 “mesh” where each tile is glued on by a machine, which makes it less labor-intensive for the installer while allowing for unique cuts and patterns. You will see different styles from small circles and squares to linear brick options, arabesque, "mermaid" style, diamonds, and any mix of these as well.

Square - Square tiles go from 4”x4” up to 24”x24” tiles, and sometimes bigger. They can be laid like a checkerboard, diagonally, or in a staggered pattern. They can also come in a variety of glazes and patterns. The square style is actually one of the oldest and most "classic" shapes for tile.

Rectangle/Brick/Subway - can start from 3x6 all the way to 12” x 24” inches and sometimes bigger. There are also shapes like 2"x12" which are not evenly proportioned, but longer and thinner. These give off a more modern appearance and can be better for laying chevron patterns. It is easier to lay smaller tiles across floors that are uneven, but if you have a fairly level floor, it is easier to use bigger tiles without having to add extra mortar underneath to level it out.

Hexagon - Hex tile is super fun and definitely trending right now. It comes in a variety of colors and can be finished with a straight line, or with a fun, exposed edge like pictured above.


Backsplash- Tile is one of the best options to be used as a kitchen or bathroom backsplash. Its durability and how easy it is to clean making it an ideal candidate.

Flooring - Tile is really great to use as flooring, especially in outdoor areas, high traffic areas and bathrooms especially. It is hard to install tile as flooring in basements because of the typically uneven surfaces and the fact that basements are cold, and tile usually makes a space cooler!

Shower - Since tile doesn't absorb water, it makes for a perfect material to use in bathrooms and showers. It will last a long time and look pretty too!

Wall Treatment- Some people use tile for an entire wall, this could work in a powder room, for a fireplace wall, and in a variety of other places too!

Benches/Seating- Tile works as a great option for a shower bench, window seat or outdoor seating as well! Again, its' durability and variety of color and style options allow you to get the look you want at a decent price!


When you lay tile there will always be an exposed, unfinished edge, you’ll need to cover this with something to make it look finished, and to help with chipping and durability. The exposed edge is more prone to water absorption and would also leave the lines below exposed.

Schluter- This is a metal finishing option. This is played directly under the tile and curves up and around the unfinished edge. This leaves the tile with a very clean and sharp line. There are lots of shapes and colors that shelter can come in. Depending on the look you’re going for and the use. Floor Schluter is different than bathroom wall Schluter for example. You can also use Schluter for transitions between floor tile and carpet.

Bullnose- This option uses the tile itself. Only certain tile comes with bullnose, so before you decide on a tile, or on this option, make sure it is available. This type of tile has one edge rounded off to make a finished edge. It is usually not the same size as the field tile you will use and makes a border around it. This is a cool option for showers, where a glass panel can hide the seam. It is also important to use around shower entries and on the edge of bathtub enclosures.

Grout - Grout is not an edge finisher, but something crucial to maintaining your tile and keeping it water-sealed. Grout comes in a variety of colors and can change how your tile appears eg. White subway tile with black grout will be a much stronger look with contrast than white subway tile with white grout. You will need to reseal your grout every once in a while, as well as adding or re-grouting every couple of years. Tile can last a lifetime if it is properly installed and taken care of.

Tile is usually a great finishing material option. It is affordable, durable and comes in so many shapes colors and sizes that you're bound to find something to match your vision. Remeber that working with an interior designer on your remodel project is a crucial part of the result you will end up with. At Bamboo we make sure our clients work with top industry designers, for less, to make their remodel visions come to life without compromising quality or time.

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